COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | FRED SCHNAUBELT

The seen and unseen of elections

"It's not the people who vote that count. It's the people who count the votes." — Joseph Stalin

In America, “Voters no longer choose representatives; instead, the representatives choose their voters.” — Glenn Hubbard, dean of Columbia University

Kevin Faulconer has reclaimed the mantle of mayor of San Diego for Republicans. The Democratic loss has been attributed to Faulconer cheating expectations, disgraced Bob Filner, David Alvarez’s age, his inexperience, President Obama endorsing Alvarez, the failed minimum wage issue, Democratic attacks ads on businessmen who create jobs, low voter turnout, and Filner’s and Alvarez’s Progressive agenda unmasked.

Since 1971, Democrats have been elected to the top office only twice: Maureen O’Connor and Bob Filner. Since both Faulconer and Alvarez are likeable, impressive individuals, my own assessment is the two major causes for Democrats losing were out-of-town labor union money — reminding voters of recent cities going bankrupt — and failure to get enough supporters to the polls — 2 percent to 29 percent in precincts south of Interstate 8. Getting supporters to the polls supersedes all the above.

It’s truly amazing how a few votes determine city policies that impact your life, work and standard of living, and the enormous differences among eligible voters, registered voters, and those who actually cast votes.

Faulconer, for instance, won the city primary for mayor with 16 percent of the VEP (voter eligible population), not to be confused with voter age population). VEP is a proxy for the broader registered voter rolls, which often include those dead or moved, and non-citizens.

In 2012, Filner won his primary with 11.5 percent of VEP and, riding on Obama’s coattails in the general election, won with 36 percent.

The ever-popular Mayor Jerry Sanders easily won his last election with only 18 percent of the VEP.

Alvarez won a City Council primary in 2010 with 6 percent of the VEP (3,343 votes). He then won his general election as a steppingstone to running for mayor. Amazingly, it took only 3,343 votes to get on the political merry-go-round.

Businessmen, who often want special privileges, supported Faulconer, and accounted for 40 percent of his campaign funding.

To be more successful, they typically hire more workers, and often pay a “learning” minimum wage. Only 1.4 percent of wage earners in California receive the minimum wage and most of them for less than a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average wage in San Diego is $27.47 an hour. The union-promoted minimum wage issue failed to get traction.

Labor unions, which always want special privileges, supported Alvarez and contributed 80 percent of his money.

To be more successful, they typically must prevent non-union workers from being hired and competing for union jobs. Union members and most wage earners — the 98.6 percent above the minimum wage — are the main beneficiaries of minimum wage increases when the city, state or federal governments increase it.

Where government workers are concerned, the taxpayers pay for the increases directly and as incorporated in pensions. Since 1979, each time the minimum wage has been increased, unemployment increased.

The only way for workers in general to earn more is “to become more productive” through profits, savings and investments in machines, equipment and technology, which enables more output per hour worked.

That said, both political parties vie with each other over who will do the most for us — with our own money.

Thinking outside the box

Faulconer was voted San Diego mayor by 20.5 percent or 137,296 votes of VEP. He received 54.5 percent from those who voted, which under the rules, is all that counts.

For perspective, the nearly $5.2 million spent by Alvarez and $4.2 million spent by Faulconer only comes to $7.89 and $6.29 per registered voter — purportedly less than what is spent on potato chips in San Diego, and a bit more than a 30-second ad on the Super Bowl).

A question: Assuming Faulconer has a vision for San Diego, should his or any politician’s vision that receives less than 50 percent of the VEP be imposed upon us? Keep in mind that no U.S. president has been elected by more than 36 percent of the VEP in 100 years.

The point to be debated: What is the legitimate extent of so-called majority rule in a democracy where candidates rarely win with a majority of the VEP or, even the more generous category, registered voters.

Should federal, state or local politicians, by majority vote determine our church, whom we marry, where we work, media reports, what we say subject to IRS approval, determine a tea party’s right to petition the government, a minimum wage, approve a Wal-Mart or Jack-in-the-Box; exercise eminent domain; prohibit guns and smoking in our cars and homes; mandate low-flow toilets, light bulbs, health care; subsidize sports teams; vote on housing shortages and as a result subsidize public housing with taxes from a greater number of people who did not vote for them?

Should elected officials be limited to approving budgets for police and fire departments, water, sewers, courts, streets and parks?

What is unseen

We confuse democracy, an appropriate method for determining who should be in charge of administering legitimate government functions, with what is the proper role of government in a free society. Bruno Leoni, Italian jurist and political scientist noted, “When a bare majority prevails in an electorate of 100, 51 have the weight of 100 and 49 the weight of zero.”

Economist Murray Rothbard noted, “The government is not ‘us.’ The government does not in any accurate sense ‘represent’ the majority of the people. ... “[Government] is that organization in society which attempts to maintain a monopoly of the use of force and violence in a given territorial area; in particular, it is the only organization in society that obtains its revenue not by voluntary contribution or payment for services rendered, but by coercion.”

Don’t misunderstand; government is not a necessary evil, as often heard. It is indispensable for protecting the people from predators, foreign and domestic, protecting private property and invoking a common system of justice.

Since there have always been bullies, government is absolutely necessary for a free society to work, but government should act as an umpire in enforcing the rules and should not be playing the game using its monopoly on force and violence.

Ludwig von Mises notes that under a free market democratic system, every penny spent gives the right to a vote. The consumers are sovereign. Consumers determine what is to be produced in what quantity and quality by buying or abstaining from buying. This is the most effective way to speak truth to power.

The question again: Assuming Faulconer has a vision for San Diego, should his or any politician’s vision that receives less than 50 percent of the VEP be imposed upon us? What’s your opinion?

Schnaubelt, president of Citizens for Private Property Rights, has been a commercial real estate broker for 45 years and was a San Diego city councilman from 1977 to 1981.

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